Chandra Shekhar/Introduction/Chapter 2
the drowned and the runaway
N this way love's first seed was sown in them. Call it love or give it any other name, it matters not. Only sixteen springs have smiled upon our hero and our heroine is a tiny girl of eight! But no love is so sweet as that which springs from tender hearts.
Early love, it seems, has a curse upon it. How many of those whom you loved in your younger days, you meet in your youth? How many do live to see your youthful days? How many, again, still deserve your love? In old age nothing but the recollection of early love lingers in our memory. But how sweet is that recollection! Every boy, without exception, feels, sometime or other, that yonder girl has an exceptionally sweet face, and that her eyes have some unspeakable charms in them. How often he turns away from his play and looks at her face—how often he lies in wait, in her way, to steal a glance at her. He is never conscious of the feeling, but nevertheless he loves her. Later on, that sweet face and that simple glance are carried away by the current of time—he goes about the world for her, but finds nothing but recollection! Early love, it seems, is cursed.
Shaibalini thought she would be married to Pratap. But Pratap knew, it was not to be. Shaibalini was the daughter of one of Pratap's kindreds. The relation was, no doubt, distant, but still they had the same blood in them. This was Shaibalini's first mistake.
Shaibalini was a poor man's daughter. She had none but her mother. They had nothing but a cottage and Shaibalini's immense beauty. Pratap too was very poor.
Shaibalini was growing in years. Her beauty was every day increasing like the new moon, till she reached the height of her glory; but she could not be married. Marriage meant expense, and who would bear it? Who would discover, and pick up, as priceless, that beauty in that wilderness?
Gradually with her years, Shaibalini grew wiser. She felt that without Pratap there was no happiness in this world. She realised that she had no chance of getting Pratap in this life as her husband.
Pratap and Saibalini began to consult with each other. They consulted for many days. But none else could know of it, as they did everything in secret. When they came to a decision, they went together for a bath in the Ganges. Many had been swimming in the river then. Pratap said, "Come Shaibalini, let us swim." They began to swim. Both of them were experts in that art—no one in the village could swim so well as they. It was the rainy season, and the river was full and swollen to the very edge of its banks. Its waters were waving, dancing, and running with mad enthusiasm. They proceeded through that vast sheet of water, tearing its surface, stirring its bosom, and throwing its particles up in the air. In the floating circles of silvery foams, the beautiful young couple looked like a pair of bright jewels set in a silver ring.
When they had gone far away, the people at the Ghat* shouted and asked them to come back. They would not listen, and proceeded on. Again the people shouted—they called them—they reproached them—they rebuked them, but neither of them would listen—they proceeded on and on. At last they came to a great distance; Pratap then cried, "Shaibalini, this is our marriage." "No further—let this be the place," responded Shaibalini readily, with warmth.
Pratap sank into the water to drown himself. Shaibalini did not. Fear came upon her at that moment. She thought within herself, "Why should I die? What is Pratap to me? I fear death—my heart fails—I cannot court it." Shaibalini turned back, and swam up to the land.